Do I One or Two? — What Determines Whether One Observes a Second Day of Yom Tov?

Question #1: Zev is studying in Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel and has decided that he wants to settle there, although his parents, who support him, live in Flatbush. How many days of Yom Tov should he observe?

Question #2: Avi and Rutie, who are native Israelis, have accepted teaching positions in chutz la’aretz for two years, but certainly intend to return to Eretz Yisroel afterwards. Must they observe both days of Yom Tov while they are in chutz la’aretz?

Question #3: Meira, studying in seminary in Israel, is baffled. “Some of my friends who have decided to stay in Eretz Yisroel were told to keep two days Yom Tov, others were told to keep one, and still others were told not to do melacha on the second day, but otherwise to treat is as a weekday. I have been unable to figure out any pattern to the answers they receive. Can you possibly clarify this for me?”

Indeed, Meira’s confusion is not unusual since poskim differ greatly concerning what guidelines determine whether one observes one day of Yom Tov or two. Before analyzing this dispute, we need some background information on how the calendar was established in the era of the Sanhedrin:

THE HALACHIC MONTH

All months in the Jewish calendar are either 29 or 30 days long, reflecting the amount of time that it takes for the moon to revolve around the earth, which is somewhat more than 29½ days. Therefore, Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new month, is always either the 30th or the 31st day following the previous Rosh Chodesh.

What determines whether a month is 29 days or 30?

The Torah commands the main Beis Din of the Jewish people, or a Beis Din specially appointed by them, to declare Rosh Chodesh upon accepting the testimony of witnesses who observed the new moon (Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 1:1, 7; 5:1). The purpose of having eyewitnesses was not to notify the Beis Din of its occurrence; the Beis Din, which had extensive knowledge of astronomy, already knew exactly when and where the new moon would appear and what size and shape it would be (Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 2:4; Ritva on the Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 18a). Rather, the Torah required the Beis Din to wait for witnesses in order to declare the 30th day as Rosh Chodesh. If no witnesses to the new moon arrived on the 30th day, then the 31st day becomes Rosh Chodesh, regardless of the astronomic calculations (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 24a).

DETERMINING YOM TOV

The date of all Yomim Tovim is determined by Rosh Chodesh, or, more specifically, by either Rosh Chodesh Tishrei or Rosh Chodesh Nissan (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 21b). (Shavuos, which occurs on the fiftieth day after Pesach, is therefore also dependent on Rosh Chodesh Nisan [Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashanah 1:4].) Therefore in earlier days, even someone fully versed with all the astronomical information would be unable to predict which day was actually Rosh Chodesh, since Rosh Chodesh was not based exclusively on calculation, but on observation and the decision of the Beis Din (Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 5:1-2). Since the calendar printers could not go to press until the Beis Din had declared Rosh Chodesh, calendar manufacture in those times would have been a difficult business in which to turn a profit. Perhaps this is why people mailed out so few fundraising calendars in the days of Chazal!

KEEP INFORMED

A major concern of Chazal was how to alert the Jewish communities, both inside and outside Eretz Yisroel, when to observe Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov. How indeed did the Beis Din do this?

THE MOUNTAINTOP ALERT

No, this is not the name of a rural West Virginia newspaper. Rather, this refers to the system Beis Din used to disseminate the day they had declared Rosh Chodesh. A representative of Beis Din would climb a mountain peak on the night after the declaration of Rosh Chodesh and wave a long torch in a prearranged pattern. When a second agent posted on a far off summit saw the light of the burning torch, he in turn waved a long torch from his peak. This heralded the news to a crest on his horizon, where a third agent began waving his torch. Although this ancient system was less effective than telephone or e-mail, it worked so efficiently that Jewish communities as distant as Bavel knew that very night that the 30th day had been declared Rosh Chodesh, and were able to observe the Yomim Tovim on the correct day (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 22b; Ritva on the Mishnah 18a).

A TORCH-LESS NIGHT

The torch system was used only if Rosh Chodesh was declared on day 30. If no witnesses arrived in Beis Din on the 30th, making Rosh Chodesh on the 31st day, no mountaintop torches were ignited. Thus, the distant communities knew: Torches the night after the 30th meant that the previous day had been Rosh Chodesh; no torch that night meant that the next day was Rosh Chodesh. To paraphrase Paul Revere: “One if by day, none if tomorrow.”

This signalling system functioned excellently until the Cusim, an anti-Semitic people who settled in Eretz Yisroel, disrupted it by deliberately kindling torches on the night after the 30th day even when Beis Din had not declared the previous day Rosh Chodesh. The Cusim’s goal was to cause Jews to observe Yom Tov a day early and thereby desecrate the true Yom Tov (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 22b). Now the Beis Din needed to resort to a different approach, appointing human runners to notify people of the proper day of Yom Tov. Obviously, these runners could not cover vast distances as quickly as the previous torch system, and it took considerably longer to notify people of the day of Rosh Chodesh – what previously took hours, now took weeks.

Although the human express successfully informed Jewish communities as distant as Syria of the correct dates of the upcoming Yomim Tovim, the runners did not always reach the more distant Babylonian communities in time for Yom Tov (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 18a). These communities were now unsure whether the Roshei Chadashim of Nissan and Tishrei had been on the 30th day or the 31st, and were therefore uncertain which day was Yom Tov. Out of doubt, they observed Yom Tov on both days — this was the origin of observing two days of Yom Tov in the Diaspora, Yom Tov Sheini shel Galuyos (Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 3:11).

(By the way, after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the main Beis Din was not located in Yerushalayim, but wherever the Nasi of the Jewish people resided. This included several other communities at various times of Jewish history, including Teverya, Yavneh, and Shafraam [Rosh Hashanah 31b].)

WHICH COMMUNITIES KEPT TWO DAYS?

Whether a town observed one or two days of Yom Tov depended on whether the runners could arrive there in time. Since the runners did not travel on Shabbos or Yom Tov, any place further than ten travel days from the main Beis Din was forced to observe two days of Sukkos. On the other hand, the runners announcing Rosh Chodesh Nissan had two extra travel days before the onset of Pesach.

OBSERVING TWO DAYS OF SUKKOS AND ONE OF PESACH?

Theoretically, one could have numerous different communal practices depending on the community’s distance from the main Beis Din. For example, a town located more than ten days journey from the Beis Din but less than twelve, would be informed of the correct day of Rosh Chodesh before Pesach, but not before Sukkos. Theoretically, this town would observe two days of Sukkos and one day of Pesach. Even more commonly, many communities would observe two days at the beginning of Yom Tov, but only one at the end, after being notified of the correct date of Rosh Chodesh.

However, since Chazal did not want a variety of different practices, they instituted that any place that could not reliably expect the messengers before Sukkos should observe two days Yom Tov on all Yomim Tovim even for those when they certainly knew which was the correct day of Yom Tov (Rosh Hashanah 21a). Thus, although everyone knew which day to observe Shavuos, as it always falls fifty days after Pesach, every community that kept two days of Sukkos was required to observe two days of Shavuos. (Because of the danger involved in people fasting for two consecutive days, Chazal ruled that people needed to observe only one day of Yom Kippur and could assume that Elul was only 29 days long [see Rosh Hashanah 21a].)

INCREASED PERSECUTION

During the later times of the Gemara, Roman persecution made it impossible to continue declaring Rosh Chodesh based on testimony, and Hillel II instituted a calendar based purely on calculation without observation (Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 5:2-3). Now a knowledgeable Diaspora Jew could make the same calculation as the Jews in Israel and the original rationale for observing two days of Yom Tov no longer existed. Nevertheless, Chazal required the Diaspora communities to continue observing two days of Yom Tov.

WHY KEEP TWO DAYS?

Why did Chazal require these communities to observe two days of Yom Tov if the original reason for this practice had ceased to exist?

Chazal were concerned that at some time in the future, persecution might render it impossible for Jews to be aware which day was Yom Tov (Beitzah 4b). Observing two days of Yom Tov reduces the possibility that they might violate Yom Tov or eat chometz on Pesach as a result of an error in calculation. Although this concern also existed in Eretz Yisroel, Chazal did not require the communities there to observe two days Yom Tov since the practice was never instituted there. However, since the Diaspora communities were already observing two days of Yom Tov, Chazal continued this practice, albeit for a new reason. As a result, the Jewish communities of Israel observe one day of Yom Tov and those of the Diaspora observe two.

WHO KEEPS TWO DAYS OF YOM TOV?

Although whether a community observed one day of Yom Tov or two should depend on whether it was within ten travel days of the main Beis Din, certain villages near the Beis Din were off the messengers’ route and consequently did not find out in time. As a result, these communities observed two days of Yom Tov even though they were within Eretz Yisroel (Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 5:9). Some Rishonim contend that even today many communities in Eretz Yisroel must observe two days of Yom Tov (Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 5:9). The accepted practice is that all Eretz Yisroel observes only one day of Yom Tov since that was the practice of most places in Eretz Yisroel when the calendar was dependent on observation (Ritva, Rosh Hashanah 18a; Minchas Shelomoh 2:44).

Thus far, we have discussed the rules governing whether a community observes two days of Yom Tov or not. However, all the questions mentioned at the beginning of this article deal with how many days of Yom Tov an individual must observe.

A FISH OUT OF WATER — VISITING CHUTZ LA’ARETZ

What is the halacha if an Eretz Yisroel resident finds himself in chutz la’aretz for Yom Tov? Must he observe two days of Yom Tov because of local custom, or may he follow his hometown practice of observing one day?

The Shulchan Aruch (496:3) rules as follows: “People who live in Eretz Yisroel who are in chutz la’aretz are forbidden to perform melacha (forbidden work) on the second day of Yom Tov even if they intend to return to Eretz Yisroel.”

No one should know that they are not observing Yom Tov, and for this reason, they must wear Yom Tov clothes (Shu”t Radbaz #1145; Magen Avraham). According to most opinions, they may not perform work even in private (Shu”t Radbaz #1145; Magen Avraham; Chayei Odom 103:3; Gra”z; Mishnah Berurah; Aruch HaShulchan, all based on Tosafos to Pesachim 52a s.v. BiYishuv. However, Shu”t Mabit 3:149 and Taz [496:2] are lenient.)

However, since it is technically not Yom Tov for them, they pray according to the practice of Eretz Yisroel on this day, even donning tefillin, although they must do so in private (Shu”t Radbaz #1145; Shu”t Avkas Rocheil #26).

A CHUTZNIK IN THE KING’S PALACE — VISITING ERETZ YISROEL

Does a chutz la’aretz resident visiting Eretz Yisroel observe one day Yom Tov or two?

According to most opinions, a chutz la’aretz resident visiting Eretz Yisroel must continue to observe two days Yom Tov until he or she assumes residence in Eretz Yisroel (Shu”t Avkas Rocheil #26; Shaarei Teshuvah 496:2; She’eilas Yaavetz #168; Birkei Yosef 496:7).

One prominent posek contends that a chutz la’aretz resident visiting Eretz Yisroel does not observe the second day of Yom Tov. His reasoning is that observing two days of Yom Tov is a carryover from when people in chutz la’aretz were unable to determine which day was definitely Yom Tov. In that era, if someone from chutz la’aretz visited Eretz Yisroel, why would he observe two days of Yom Tov if he knew that the second day was not Yom Tov (Shu”t Chacham Tzvi #167)? (The Chacham Zvi himself forbids observing the second day of Yom Tov in Eretz Yisroel because of concerns about bal tosif, adding to the mitzvah, a topic we will leave for a different time.)

Although the Chacham Tzvi’s argument seems logical, almost all other halachic authorities reject his conclusion. It should be noted that even the Chacham Zvi’s son, Rav Yaakov Emden followed the majority opinion unlike his father (She’eilas Yaavetz #168. However, note that the Gra”z 496:11 cites the Chacham Tzvi’s approach as the primary opinion.)

May people from chutz la’aretz organize a second-day Yom Tov minyan? This is an old dispute that continues to this day. Although many poskim object to the practice, contending that one should not act publicly differently from local practice, the custom to have second-day Yom Tov minyanim in Eretz Yisroel is mentioned favorably by Rav Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch, as a well-established practice (Shu”t Avkas Rocheil #26). In most communities today it is the norm for chutz la’aretz visitors to conduct second day Yom Tov minyanim, and even to advertise them.

A TEMPORARY RESIDENT

At the beginning of this article I mentioned several common situations where it is not obvious whether one should comport himself as a resident of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz la’aretz. What determines whether one should observe two days of Yom Tov? Whether one observes two days of Yom Tov depends on whether one is considered a Diaspora resident or not, concerning which we find a wide range of halachic opinion. Here is a sampling of the opinions:

ONE YEAR

Some contend that one who plans to stay for a year should consider himself a resident of his new domicile even if he intends to return eventually (Aruch HaShulchan 496:5; Shu”t Avnei Nezer, OC 424:27). These authorities compare this law to the following Mishnah (Bava Basra 7b):

“You can force someone to contribute to the construction of the walls and reinforcements of a city… How long must he be in the city to consider him a resident? Twelve months. And if he purchased a residence he is considered a resident immediately.” The Gemara (Bava Basra 8a) compares this law to similar responsibilities for tzedakah and some other mitzvos.

According to this approach, Avi and Rutie, who will be teaching in chutz la’aretz for two years, certainly follow all the practices of chutz la’aretz for Yom Tov (see also Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 3:35).

LONG TERM INTENT

On the other hand, a different early authority ruled that time is not the factor in deciding whether one is considered a resident of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz la’aretz, but one’s long term intent. If one’s plans are to return to Eretz Yisroel, one should daven according to Eretz Yisroel practice, even if one is in chutz la’aretz for several years. Someone in Eretz Yisroel who intends to return to chutz la’aretz should observe two days Yom Tov. However, this halachic authority included one main exception to his rule: If one travels with one’s family and establishes a livelihood in his new locale, he should consider himself a resident of where he is now, since people tend to remain in a place where their livelihood is secure (Pri Chodosh, Orach Chayim 468 s.v. vira’isi).

However, many authorities judge contemporary circumstances differently from those of earlier generations. Since today people travel and even relocate relatively easily, the fact that one’s family and livelihood is currently in one location does not automatically make one a permanent resident of that place for the purposes of determining whether one observes one day of Yom Tov or two. Because of this consideration, Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that someone studying in kollel in Eretz Yisroel should keep two days Yom Tov unless both he and his wife have decided to remain in Eretz Yisroel (Shu”t Igros Moshe, OC 3:74). Rav Moshe has several other published teshuvos on the subject, each person’s case being someone different, and in each case Rav Moshe determines whether the person should be considered a resident of Eretz Yisroel or one of chutz la’aretz.

ALWAYS YOM TOV IN ERETZ YISROEL

Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shelomoh 1:19:7) issued the following ruling: He contends that someone who owns a residence in Eretz Yisroel that he uses for every Yom Tov need keep only one day of Yom Tov while in Eretz Yisroel, even though he lives in chutz la’aretz the rest of the year. Rav Shlomoh Zalman’s logic is that this individual no longer has the custom of keeping two days of Yom Tov since he is always in Eretz Yisroel for Yom Tov.

A YESHIVA BACHUR WHO INTENDS TO REMAIN IN ERETZ YISROEL

What is the halachic status of a yeshiva bachur studying in Eretz Yisroel whose family lives in chutz la’aretz, but who intends to remain in Eretz Yisroel long-term? Can he establish a different custom from his family?

In answering a different question, the Magen Avraham (468:12) contends that a yeshiva bachur who is in one place for two or three years does not take on the customs of his yeshiva town. On the other hand, other sources quote that accepted practice is that a yeshiva bachur from chutz la’aretz attending a yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel observes only one day of Yom Tov (Shaarei Teshuvah 496:2). Are these two sources in dispute? Rav Moshe Feinstein contends that they are not, explaining that a student who is financially dependent on parents who have not accepted his decision to remain in Eretz Yisroel should follow their practice, whereas if he is financially on his own, or they agree to support him in Eretz Yisroel, he observes only one day of Yom Tov (Shu”t Igros Moshe, OC 2:101).

Others disagree, contending that if he might remain in Eretz Yisroel, he need observe only one day of Yom Tov. According to this approach, the Magen Avraham considered him a resident of his parents’ town only if he is certain that he is returning there after his Yeshiva years (Shu”t Yabia Omer 6:oc:40; Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 1:26).

“A DAY AND A HALF”

A colloquial expression has developed referring to someone as observing Yom Tov for “a day and a half.” This term does not mean that the person observes Yom Tov for 36 hours. It means that the rav who paskined felt uncertain whether he/she should be observing one day Yom Tov or two, and therefore ruled that he/she should not perform any melacha on the second day of Yom Tov, but should daven and observe it otherwise as a weekday.

We can now begin to comprehend Meira’s question:

“Some of my friends have been told to keep two days of Yom Tov, others were told to keep one, and still others were told not to work on the second day but otherwise to treat is as a weekday. I have been unable to figure out any pattern to the answers they receive.”

Truthfully, there is a very wide range of opinion what determines whether one observes one day of Yom Tov or two. Thus, Meira’s confusion is very understandable. Each friend’s rabbi may be applying completely different criteria to determine how many days of Yom Tov to observe, and that is why Meira cannot figure out any pattern. Obviously, someone should ask his or her rav what to do and follow his instructions.

The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as Moed. Just as the Ohel Moed is a meeting place between Hashem and the Jewish people, so too a moed is a meeting time for Hashem and His people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb). Perhaps being more distant from Hashem in chutz la’aretz necessitates an extra day to celebrate our unique relationship with Him!

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